By Muhammad Luqman
Iran has said that it is ready to connect Pakistan’s Gwadar port with Chabahar port to promote trade and commerce in the region.
“I’ve come here with a proposal for the government of Pakistan for connection between Chabahar and Gwadar… We believe that Chabahar and Gwadar can complement each other,” Zarif was quoted as saying during a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the capital, Islamabad.
“We can connect Chabahar and Gwadar, and then through that connect Gwadar to our entire railroad system, from Iran to the North Corridor, through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, and also through Azerbaijan, Russia, and through Turkey,” Zarif said.
Iran, India and Afghanistan signed a trilateral transit agreement in Tehran in May 2016, which allows the three countries to open new routes of connection by converting Chabahar port into a transit hub.
The port in Chabahar, only about 100 kilometres from the Pakistan border and located on the Indian Ocean, is Iran’s largest outside the Gulf while Gwader is deep sea port that would connect South-western Pakistan with Western China through CPEC, one of the flagship projects of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road Initiative.
Meanwhile, Pakistan urged both Tehran and the United States to refrain from escalating the conflict.
Zarif, who landed in Islamabad late Thursday night, held separate meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Zarif and PM Imran Khan talked about bilateral relations between Iran and Pakistan in a meeting that was also attended by Qureshi.
The purpose of Zarif’s visit to Pakistan was not made public, says Associated Press, reporting that there has been speculation that Iran is looking to Islamabad and its close relationship with Riyadh to help de-escalate the situation.
Ahead of Zarif’s arrival, Pakistan’s foreign ministry called on “all sides to show restraint, as any miscalculated move, can transmute into a large-scale conflict.”
In his meeting with Gen Bajwa at General Headquarters, matters of mutual interest and evolving situation in the region were discussed during the meeting.
The army chief said that war was not in anyone’s interest and that all sides need to make efforts to keep conflict away from the region, said a statement issued by the military’s media wing.
During the delegation-level talks held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qureshi assured the Iranian counterpart about Pakistan’s reconciliatory efforts for ensuring peace in the region, English newspaper, Pakistan Today reported.
He further said that dialogue is the only way to resolve the disputes as conflict will not benefit either side. Pointing towards the surging tension between Iran and the US, he reiterated that all stakeholders need to showcase tolerance as regional tension was in no one’s interest.
He stated that Pakistan wants resolution of all outstanding issues through diplomatic engagement and said that stakeholders need to demonstrate patience and tolerance.
Zarif assured Qureshi that Iran “gives value” to Islamabad’s efforts to establish peace in the region.
Both sides expressed satisfaction over the implementation of decisions made during Prime Minister Imran’s recent visit to Iran and agreed to continue cooperation on bilateral matters.
Zarif, upon his arrival in Islamabad, told Irani news agency IRNA that Tehran seeks stronger ties with Islamabad and that “developing strong relations with our immediate neighbours is on the top of Iranian foreign policy”.
By Muhammad Luqman